How does one argue the Trinity with Jehovah’s Witnesses?

As a former Jehovah’s Witness (now Catholic) I get asked this most often.

The answer: One doesn’t.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are prepared to come at the Trinity from every angle, and when they do they try to get everything they have been trained about it out, unfortunately sometimes all at once! I used to be a Jehovah’s Witness, so I know. I used to do this. It is what we were trained to do! Now as a Roman Catholic, I am sharing what I know.

While many here have great arguments to use in defending the Catholic faith, they won’t work against a people who train every day on how not listen to you, who go to weekly training courses and memorize ways to catch you up in your speech, and practice new approaches monthly to use when they encounter you. They are prepared to more than you realize.

So what’s a Catholic to do? Simple. Respond by doing something they are NOT prepared for. What is that? Employing logistical apologetics.

Apostle Paul’s Logistical Apologetic Approach

Logistical apologetics is based on the approach employed by St. Paul when he gave his speech before King Agrippa as recorded in Acts 26. By the end of his speech, Paul had the Agrippa declaring: “You will soon persuade me to play the Christian!”—Acts 26:28.

In this speech St. Paul does not attempt to prove the existence of God or of Jesus or of any of the tenets of Christianity. What he does, however, is appeal to Agrippa’s knowledge of things and logic to show that he, Paul, is not a madman but a very sane man who has very logical reasons for being a Christian.

Paul tells his story of how he got to where he was, a man in chains now making a defense before King Agrippa. He effective puts his audience in his own shoes, demonstrating so effectively that logic gave him no choice but to become a Christian that his audience said among themselves: “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” (Acts 26:24-31) While they didn’t exactly leave Paul as new converts to Christianity or believing in his message, they did walk away believing in Paul.

And that’s what we need to do when we talk with the Jehovah’s Witnesses about things. At the end of the day they probably won’t be leaving their Kingdom Hall and signing up for RCIA, but they should be able to see that our actions in choosing to be Catholic show a logic that can’t be argued against.

Approach No. 1: Demonstrate a Lack of Logic in What Gets Raised Against You

Before you start off on your apologetic discourse in imitation of the apostle Paul, you will probably have to earn any listening ear from the Witnesses. This will happen if you show them you are a logical person in regards to our chosen subject here, the Most Holy Trinity.

Doing this will require that you disarm their objections to the Trinity. And you will do this NOT by raising other arguments to counter theirs, but showing they don’t have an argument to begin with.

I will demonstrate this with two of the most common objections I personally get in the following post.

No True Scotsman

The following is usually the foundational form of argument used to counter the Trinity by the Jehovah’s Witness. Regardless of the context, the logical fallacy is always the same: the “No True Scotsman” approach. In fact this logical fallacy is generally the basis for why they reject the Trinity (and how they get others to do it).

For demonstration purposes I will use an illustration of this fallacious approach between a JW and CATHOLIC.

JW: No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.
CATHOLIC: I’m a Scotsman, and I put sugar on my porridge.
JW: Well, no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.

And this is how you usually hear or see it played out.

The Trinity is cannot be true because as the Encyclopædia Britannica states: “Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament . . . The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies.”

In other words: No true Scotsman would lack being explicit and would never develop gradually and through many controversies.

This is not an argument in favor or against the Trinity. To illustrate:

Neither authorization for or explicit directives appear in Scripture for elders presiding over marriages, yet Jehovah’s Witnesses get married with elders officiating over their weddings. There is no explicit listing of what books belong to the Bible canon, but that doesn’t mean that Witnesses reject the Bible.

Most of the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have developed gradually over the past century and through many controversies, such as the identity of the “faithful and discreet slave,” the “generation” that will “not pass away,” and setting specific dates for the end such as 1874, 1925, and 1975.

Just because a doctrine is not explicit in the New Testament or developed gradually over many years and through many controversies has not stopped Jehovah’s Witnesses from holding many such teachings themselves. Therefore you show them that their logic cannot follow through on this argument lest they condemn themselves.

But with that out of the way, you usually get it immediately followed up with this…

The Trinity cannot be true because it wasn’t formulated until the end of the 4th century. Note: “The formulation ‘one God in three Persons’ was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century.”—New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), Volume 14, page 299.

It’s the same thing: No true Scotsman would be established after the 4th century.

The Bible canon was also not established prior to the end of the 4th century. In 325, the Council of Nicaea had already formulated and adopted The Trinity in the Nicene Creed, but Athanasius’ canon was released more than 40 years after that. So Christians believed in the Trinity before they had a closed New Testament canon.

“The ‘closed canon’ that prevails in all Christian churches forms a consensus that prevents such eccentricities. And that canon can be traced back to Athanasius, and to the year 367, which justly remains an important date in church history.”–367 Athanasius Defines the New Testament, Dr. Carsten Peter Thiede, president of Reinhold-Schneider-Gesellschaft e. V. in West Germany and a member of the advisory board of Christian History.

Since the Bible was formulated later than the Trinity doctrine, this cannot be a valid argument. When a doctrine came to light doesn’t make it any more false or valid. All of the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses did not come about until the late 19th century, but this late date doesn’t mean Witnesses disregard their own beliefs.

See the pattern? See how to respond to the pattern? You attack the logical fallacy then the subject doesn’t require any time to be spent on it.

JW: The Trinitarian dogma is a late fourth-century invention

CATHOLIC counters with: The Christian Greek Scripture Canon is also a late fourth-century invention, later than the Trinity dogma

And the CATHOLIC adds: The Kingdom Hall is an invention of the 20th century and aren’t mentioned in the Bible

catholic.com/tracts/stumpers-for-the-jehovahs-witnesses

catholic.com/tracts/more-stumpers-for-the-jehovahs-witnesses

Appeal to Authority

JW: Experts agree that such-and-such is the truth.
CATHOLIC: Do you have to be an expert to know the truth?

Add to that last question: “Are experts always right?”

This is the biggest problem with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the way most new converts get pulled away from their religions. You read one of their publications and BANG! You are confronted with a quote from an “authoritative” publication or an expert.

“See what the experts say about the Trinity?” they will then ask their naïve Bible student. “Authoritative and expert testimony says this, and therefore we should believe what we read.” What are you supposed to do in the face of expert testimony? Are you going to look stupid if you disagree with an actual expert?

Expert Does Not Equal Truth

This technique works too often for one sad reason: No one teaches us that it is a mistake to believe in “expert testimony.” ‘They use it in court cases, right?’ you may ask. ‘They call on an expert to offer information to help settle a case, right?’

But we forget that both arguing sides in a legal case can call, or rather, they hire the “expert” of their own choosing. Both sides’ experts will offer completely conflicting “expert testimony.” This should teach us a lesson: If expert testimony were always true and could end an argument then the testimony from two experts would NEVER conflict.

But alas, it does.

Being an expert doesn’t guarantee that what will come out of your mouth will be 100% undeniable, inarguable truth. In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses often take pride in the fact that they often repeat to others: “One does not need to be an expert to know the truth of the Bible.”

If that is true, why do they base their arguments (or at least pepper them) with constant quotes and citations from experts? They will cite an expert and then proceed to argue from the appeal to the authority. But they offer no proof that the authority is correct in the first place. They never say to their Bible students: “Let’s demonstrate how this expert testimony is inarguable.” This type of an argument is the appeal of the illogical and uneducated.

Appeal from a Non-Authority (Shame on them!)

In fact, they often disguise their “testimony” to look like it comes from an expert, when in reality the quote comes from a non-approved source. I found this one repeated all over the Internet on JW-made sites:

Your own Church teaches against the Trinity! It is a myth and a lie! The Watchtower of November 2008 published the following as proof that your own clergy know it is not Bible-based! Despite attempts to find passages of Scripture to support the Trinity dogma, Dominican priest Marie-Émile Boismard wrote in his book À l’aube du christianisme—La naissance des dogmes (At the Dawn of Christianity—The Birth of Dogmas): “The statement that there are three persons in the one God . . . cannot be read anywhere in the New Testament.”*

Fr. Boismard’s book, At the Dawn of Christianity: The Birth of Dogmas, published in 1998, is not considered an authoritative book representative of Catholic theology in line with Vatican guidelines. The popular Catholic website, CatholicCulture.org explains this in its article “Biblical Scholarship & the Faith of the Church” where the author of the review on this publication, Kenneth D. Whitehead, a former US assistant secretary of education, states:

In his most recent book, The Dawn of Christianity, which bears the subtitle Before the Birth of Dogmas (1998), Fr. Boismard reinforces our impression that, for all practical purposes, he has simply abandoned the Catholic faith.

This article is an overview of problems with certain types of biblical scholarship that have led some to stray from the faith of the Church. Since the book some many JWs quote is not representative of Church-approved doctrine it is not proof of anything expect that The Watchtower is (and JWs are) willing to quote publications in ways designed to mislead. This example isn’t even an appeal from a real authority!

I pause here for comments or other “stumpers” you may have encountered. I will add a little more to this thread over the next few days.

*–Interesting note, this same Watchtower from 2008 actually follows and uses the very same arguments against the Trinity presented here, in the exact same order as I’ve presented them, and quoting the same sources (and the same exact quotes from the same sources). The reason? The Jehovah’s Witnesses are trained to parrot off the information they learn and don’t “stray from the script.” These are practically the same arguments or similar ones used when I was among them in the 1980s.

:wink:

I’ve never understood why anyone would try.
I do believe that when persons approach us wanting to learn about Catholicism, we should go all out to teach with great tenderness, compassion, and with the best of materials. Encourage , encourage.
However, if people are trying to put their beliefs onto me or try to dissuade me from the true faith?
No time for that. Nada.

Thank you Delson, for what you have written.

Perhaps I am not quite right but I enjoy talking with JWs. Many of them are former Catholics who were poorly catechized and were sucked into the JW cult.

I usually ask a lot of questions.

The main one is “who is the first and the last” and also why they put brackets around the word “other” in colossians.

I’m not sure where to go with this.

They always ask me to show where in the Bible the Holy Trinity is mentioned.

What about debating with them about Jesus Christ whom they believe is an angel, where did they get that from?

Am I the only one who just doesn’t answer the door?

Many thanks for this info. DelsonJacobs!

God bless.

Cathoholic

My question to them and any other religion that knocks on my door is simple, “Why would Jesus have lied?” or “Was Jesus really a failure that He would leave His Church?”. Anyways good thread Jacob!!!

Would a counter like “Why does it have to be in the Bible ?” get anywhere as a bridge to Tradition? I mean obviously they say that the Bible is their only authority but I have a JW that said she is coming back next week and i am supposed to show her in the Bible where Jesus claims to be God. I have the standard scriptures ready but if I get in trouble, I am going to ask where Jesus SAYS he is Michael.

“A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house.”

While our immediate response or gut reaction is to ask them questions about their faith or to debate with them over a point, to be truly effective we need to resist those urges.

If we ask them questions or make them defend their beliefs, we have no one but ourselves to blame for what happens next: what I call the “Playing of the Propaganda Record.” They will respond with all of their training, all the points they memorized, and they will not listen to what you have to say. Believe me when I say that letting this happen is not unlike pulling the only stopper out of the side of a dam that is ready to burst.

What you need to do (as someone has already mentioned—thanks pianistclare) is be ready to use the opportunity to preach Catholicism to them. I mean if we wanted to hear a sermon by a Jehovah’s Witness, we would go to the Kingdom Hall, am I right? And if we aren’t going to the Kingdom Hall to listen to one of their public talks, we certainly don’t want to listen to an unstoppable, unreasonable one going on at our front door.

I’ve read many raise very effective points and arguments that we can use against them, but the points won’t reach their target if they won’t listen. Their target is their mind and their heart. Until they give us that to us via their attention, we are just shooting arrows into the wind.

What if I just don’t want to answer the door?

Better not to answer the door than get yourself drawn into a discussion you just don’t want to be a part of. Think of it like one of those bothersome telemarketer calls. The people on the other end can be very annoying, sometimes rude, and have been trained to push your buttons–to the point that even the most calm of us can loose our temper.

If we aren’t in the mood to talk to another person, we shouldn’t. If we don’t feel prepared or just can’t stand talking to Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are under no obligation to do so. The reason? They will say bad things about you if tell them you are not interested and say bad things about you if slam the door in their face and say bad things about you–well, just about for everything you will do EXCEPT if agree with them and join their religion. They put you in a no-win scenario with them if you choose to not to become one of them. So you may just want to avoid them entirely if you don’t want to play that game.

I enjoy talking with them because I want to help them.

That’s alright too. We all have different dispositions based our unique gifts from God. As it is written: “He gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers.” (Ephesians 4:11) And then again: “They are not all apostles or prophets or teachers.”–1 Corinthians 12:29.

So some of us will be more inclined to speak with them because it is a sign of the type of gift we are given by the Holy Spirit. “Some are…teachers,” but “not all” are. Do what the Spirit tells you to.

Because this is not understood in the Jehovah’s Witnesses that it is not the intention of God that all people be evangelists and/or teachers, you should see how some of them suffer each time they are forced to go out and publicly preach (and yes, since it doesn’t come naturally to these ones, they are forced to make themselves do it).

I’ve seen people in tears or develop stomach problems with knees knocking and breaking out in sweats, even fainting, because the religion makes them all, ALL, go out and preach. Scripture tells us it is not the Holy Spirit’s intention for all to bring the Gospel in the same fashion, but because they cannot be a part of their religion unless they do this public preaching work. So you often see some of them suffer greatly as they try to be a good Witness. (This should inspire kindness and mercy on our part when we see them at our door or preaching in public, as we never really know how hard it is for them to bring themselves to speak to us.)

They always demand that I show them in the Bible where the Trinity is mentioned.

This is a trap and another example of a logical fallacy. I will shortly post how you can deal with this.

But for now, remember–it’s designed to be* a snare!* Don’t fall for (into) it!

Oh, and thanks for the nice comments and forgive the many typos. I have an overly aggressive computer with an auto-correct that needs to be taken outside and shot. :wink:

While I agree with what you have to say about not questioning their beliefs and defending one’s own in some cases I simply must say it’s not true for all. I think that is what you’re trying to say as well?

You mentioned “trying to help them” and I think that is the goal of either party in their heart. Anyone who preaches to another really does think they’re helping the other person, so I suppose that would certainly be how I feel when one approaches my door.

Often I have a bit of a “YIPPIE” moment because of the excitement when they ring my doorbell or if I see them approaching. I’ve never had a young man approach my door; usually it’s people in their 40’s-60’s. I wish someone would knock on my door I could relate to more, who might be a little more open to reason. Contrast that with Mormons who always seem to be in their mid 20’s when I talk to them. Perhaps you can comment on the reason for this?

Anyways, I love challenging them and I love being challenged by them. I have my Greek sheets ready for when they approach my door that goes into the true meaning of the original text; and I don’t let them change the subject.

You are correct.

What I am discussing is an alternative approach, one that CAN work from the get go.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are prepared to talk about their beliefs and the Scriptural support, but what they aren’t prepared for (of even know about it) is that their logic can be (and often is) flawed.

Over all the years that I’ve spent with them, it was when their logic was revealed to be faulty that lights would go off. Everything else sent us into pre-programmed respond/attack mode.

It’s not that the other approaches don’t work, it’s that they are often futile when the person is already in a mode where they are taught and trained to ignore what you say. That’s what many people don’t realize–we were trained weekly on how to ignore and/or pooh-pooh what ever we heard in response. Our goal was to keep on going, regardless…unless someone said something we never heard of.

Attack the logic, see if you can get a listening ear, and THEN do the other stuff. The other stuff works, but only if they are a sponge. First we need to learn to take the sponge out of the water-proof package.

Okay I’m listening…

:slight_smile:

Kirk (pointing to Mudd) “Everything he says is a lie !”

Mudd - “I’m Lying”

Android - “If he says he is lying and he always lies, then he is telling the truth, but he cannot tell the truth because everything he says is a lie, illogical, illogical…”

Ah, if it were only that easy

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